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No, I said, "GOOD win!"
April 6, 2010 10:37 AM   Subscribe

John Rocker was pretty bad. And their name/uniform/tomahawk chop is considered offensvie by some. But before Hank Aaron, or even Babe Ruth hit his 714th home run with the Braves, there was the miracle team of 1914. Their secret? A lucky (not-at-all-racist) swastika.
posted by ericbop (34 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Up to the 1930's, the American National Guard 45th division used a traditional Indian symbol as its divisional insignia on its shoulder patches. (Prior to WWII it was changed to a different Indian symbol.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:44 AM on April 6, 2010


Well the swastika WAS an Amer-Indian symbol before it was co-opted by the Nazis.
posted by Danf at 10:44 AM on April 6, 2010


Our high school gym was a WPA building built in the 30s and had these cool tiles in the hallways, about a 1/3 of which were swastikas. Somebody thought this might offend somebody, so they tore out the offending tiles and replaced them with ugly blank ones. My 18 year old self was quite annoyed at the historical ignorance of the school.
posted by afu at 10:46 AM on April 6, 2010


I've read a lot about the history of baseball, but I'd never heard of the swastika being used as a superstitious symbol until this. What a great story! Truly cool that he used the ads posted on the outfield walls to determine what dates the photos were taken.

Thanks for this!
posted by zarq at 10:47 AM on April 6, 2010


What, you mean a pre-World War One American baseball team was not, in fact, made up exclusively of members of a German political party in a German political system, neither of which would exist for another five years?

I don't believe it for a second.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wow, great post, and an awesome piece of historic baseball detective work.

Baseball players are known to be either extremely superstitious, or they gleefully take part in those superstitious practices that have been elevated to the level of baseball culture. So, while I'm surprised it was a swastika, I'm not at all shocked to see a team deck themselves out in good luck charms.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2010


On the other hand, several of the groups involved in the Christie Pits Riot in Toronto also claimed that they were displaying the swastika as a Native Canadian symbol of good luck.

Hint: they weren't.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:52 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


To this day, huge numbers of baseball players do deck themselves out in good luck charms. Except this time, they come in the form of Titanium Necklaces.
posted by arcolz at 10:54 AM on April 6, 2010


And a tip of the cap for the post title, too!
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


These images are only surprising to us because there was a concerted, near universal, entirely voluntary, and almost entirely undiscussed, and extraordinary successful effort to eliminate any swastikas from American history. And its understandable. Let's say it's the end of WWII and mother dies. You go through her stuff and find a photo of mother on a hockey team with a swastika on her sweater. So you throw it out, because jeez.

There was a lot of this that happened after WWII. Previously, it wasn't all that remarkable to see swastikas in the US. There were navy barracks, postcards, stained glass windows, crane valves, even coins.

It's understandable, but, I think, sort of regrettable. I've never been fond of erasing the parts of history that embarrass us, especially when that embarrassment is based in retrojecting a new meaning of something onto a more innocent picture. I'd kind of like to remember a time when the swastika wasn't the symbol of evil it is now.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rehabilitating the swastika is a long-running project of ManWoman, a favorite artist of mine. He gets a little new-age-twee with it, but his basic point is that the swastika has been around a hell of a lot longer than the Nazis. It's still common to see swastikas at Buddhist religious sites, for example. And then there's the Coca-Cola "lucky swastika" watch fob, a promotional giveaway from 1925. There's a lot of other examples of non-Nazi swastikas on that site as well.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also see Chilocco Indian School basketball team.
posted by Omon Ra at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010


Also, the Nazis never actually called it a swastika to my knowledge. They called it the Hakenkreuz, or hooked cross.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:56 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gesundheit.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:00 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


For some reason the line "A word of warning. Matching outfield wall advertisements is a great way to help date photos, but it is not an exact science" made this article worth reading to me. Someone really takes their dating baseball photos seriously.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:05 AM on April 6, 2010


You know who else played first?

Who.

That's what I'm asking you, who played first?
posted by not_on_display at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


I look forward to reading this links in hopes of determining why the Braves roar into the postseason and then BREAK MY FUCKING HEART YEAR AFTER YEAR.

(I'm hoping the answer is "ancient Indian curse" instead of "can't bat, field, or pitch", but I'm not optimistic.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:08 AM on April 6, 2010


Yeah bitteroldpunk, but how bout that ass-whooping we put on the cubbies yesterday? Surely THIS must be our year...
posted by andruwjones26 at 11:17 AM on April 6, 2010


ManWoman, a favorite artist of mine.

OH GOD I'M SO HIGH
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:28 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


This was somewhat common in hockey too.
posted by Brodiggitty at 11:35 AM on April 6, 2010


Hmm this is a good point, what was previously innocent is now offensive (or offensvie). How do we regulate these things?? Surely one group cannot solve all the problems.
posted by ACair at 11:45 AM on April 6, 2010


Oh, I think it's fairly simple. If you're not a member of the First Nations or wearing a saffron robe, you're probably going to be seen as a dick if you wear one on your person or use one in your interior decorating. Historical use can be noted as historical.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2010


Johnny Evers, the Braves' redoubtable veteran, was immortalized in this poem.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2010


Excellent (and interesting) forensic work on the part of the author.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:06 PM on April 6, 2010


Also, the Nazis never actually called it a swastika to my knowledge.

This sort of makes me wonder if the use of the term swastika was some sort of deliberate dismisive tact on the part of the powers that be during the war.

The Book of Symbols the Nazis Didn't Appropriate is probably not terribly thick, so we can take some comfort from the fact that we mostly stick to trying to scrub the swastika from modern history.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:08 PM on April 6, 2010


This sort of makes me wonder if the use of the term swastika was some sort of deliberate dismisive tact on the part of the powers that be during the war.

I think it's because the word "swastika" already existed in English, derived from the Sanskrit word for it, and was what that symbol was already generally known as in English. Wikipedia claims that "swastika" first appeared in English in the 1870s.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:14 PM on April 6, 2010


Sunwheels are a pretty common Indian art motif around here, to this day... we've even got some giant ones on an overpass.

Personally, I agree with Astro Zombie: it's too bad we went with an over-the-top whitewash with regards to the swastika, rather than simply accepting it as an ubiquitous symbol which means much more than just "Nazis". That said, time and culture will probably do this for us... the billions of people to whom swastikas mean "good luck" or "temple here" aren't going anywhere, and they're not likely to drop the symbol just to appease our cultural hang-up about it.
posted by vorfeed at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2010


The flag of Finnish Air Forces, based on original design (1918-1919) of Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Yes we can.
posted by Free word order! at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2010


Johnny Evers also played a key role in the enduring baseball story of poor Fred Merkle.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:55 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"GOOD win?"
posted by kittensofthenight at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2010


If you Philly people look closely there's a swastika in the design of the old Fidelity Insurance building, right at the corner where Fairmount dumps onto Kelly Drive by the Art Museum.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:40 PM on April 6, 2010


Blackhawk indian from Cleveland acting brave in Atlanta, Kansas City chief in Washington battling redskins...
posted by anthill at 1:59 PM on April 6, 2010


Swastikas and beer anyone?
Danish Carlsberg used a swastika as their logo before the Nazis appropriated it. The old brewery in Copenhagen still has plenty of them. Swastikas that is. Not Nazis.
posted by Sourisnoire at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2010


Those last two articles are great—I knew about the Miracle Braves, but the details are fascinating (and, as others have noted, the use of outfield ads as dating material is excellent). Thanks for the post! (Now can the Mets get a miracle?)
posted by languagehat at 2:50 PM on April 6, 2010


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